Wizards 107, Pistons 105
Late in the first half, John Wall hurdled two rows deep behind the basket to save the ball, then ran back onto the court to poke it away from an opponent - and ended up sprawled on the scorer's table.
He made as many free throws by himself as the other team did as a whole. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and was the difference in a close game.
He sure worked hard to give the Washington Wizards their first three-game winning streak in three years.
Wall finished with 26 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals Tuesday night as the Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 107-105, a game in which he showed none of the complacency that might befall a rookie at the end of a long, losing season.
''I still have to leave my trademark in the league,'' the No. 1 overall draft pick said. ''As a rookie, I've proved myself a little bit, but I still have a lot to do. I just want to be a person that's going to go out there and play hard every minute that I'm on the court.''
Wall was in high school the last time the Wizards last won three in a row - April 4-9, 2008.
''The great ones? They don't know what time of the season it is,'' Washington coach Flip Saunders said. ''You look at how Michael (Jordan) played, Larry Bird, Magic (Johnson) and all those guys. They don't know. They play because they love the game and love to compete.''
Over the last three years, the Wizards have been stopped after a two-game run on 11 different occasions. It helped that this time they ran into a beneficial NIT-like schedule of Cleveland, Charlotte and Detroit - all more than 10 games below .500 - and that Austin Daye's 3-pointer for Detroit somehow popped out after rattling inside the rim at the final buzzer Tuesday.
''I wasn't aware of the streak,'' said Wizards late-season acquisition Maurice Evans, who scored 20 points, ''but I was aware that wins haven't been coming very easily.''
The Wizards had also lost eight straight against Detroit, but the Pistons are limping to the finish line, having lost four in a row and seven of eight. Guard Rodney Stuckey, who has run afoul of coach John Kuester for unspecified reasons, was benched for the second straight game.
Greg Monroe finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, but he missed two free throws that would have tied the game with 10 seconds to play.
''It's just my bad,'' Monroe said. ''I have to have the mental toughness to knock those down. It's nobody's fault but mine.''
Andray Blatche added 26 points, 10 rebounds and six steals for the Wizards, who learned Tuesday that six players on their roster won't return this season. Nick Young (left knee bone bruise), Josh Howard (left knee tendinitis), Rashard Lewis (sore right knee), Trevor Booker (broken bone in right foot), Hamady Ndiaye (strained left knee tendon) and Cartier Martin (stress fracture in his left foot) are all sidelined for the duration, leaving the team with nine healthy players.
Wall's alley-oop to JaVale McGee tied the score with 42 seconds to play, and McGee's rebound and long outlet pass to Wall set up the rookie's fast-break dunk that put Washington ahead by two with 15 seconds left.
Monroe was 8 for 8 from the free throw line before missed his vital pair at the line with 10 seconds to go. Blatche was fouled as he grabbed the rebound, then made both of his free throws to give the Wizards a four-point lead.
Daye made a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to cut Detroit's deficit to one. Wall was quickly fouled, but he made only one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds to go, giving the Pistons a final chance to win or tie. Daye had a good look at his 3-pointer from the left wing, but it caromed in and out.
''Man, it's not supposed to happen like that,'' Daye said. ''I thought it was good when it left my hand. I was standing there waiting to see it go in. It popped out somehow, I don't know.''
Notes: Wall went 14 for 16 from the line; the Pistons were 14 for 20. ... Detroit's Tracy McGrady hurt his right wrist when he was fouled while making a basket in the first half. He took his free throw left-handed then left the game but returned for the second half. ... Detroit's former Connecticut players - Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva - attended UConn's NCAA title game victory over Butler in Houston on Monday night. Hamilton shot a Butler-like 1 for 11 from the field, while Gordon left the game late in the first half and didn't return. He said he got hit in the knee. ... Saunders on guard Jordan Crawford, who is listed at 6-foot-4: ''I think if I could get Jordan's head out his neck, I might get him up to 6-6. He's got the old man's swag.''